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What Some Consumers Thought of Their Banks' Systems--16 Years Ago

Don't stop reading yet just because 16 years in bank tech is like ancient history. This is entertainment because it happened in the Big Easy, pre Katrina, when hurricanes were treated like a mosquito bite. In my opinion, the survey results are just as true today as when I first did the exercise.

Don't stop reading yet just because 16 years in bank tech is like ancient history. This is entertainment because it happened in the Big Easy, pre Katrina, when hurricanes were treated like a mosquito bite. In my opinion, the survey results are just as true today as when I first did the exercise.Since I'm usually wrapped up in what bankers think of their computer systems, I decided one day to get true feelings from real people. I went to the streets of New Orleans, certainly not because New Orleans is a microcosm of the U.S. Au contraire, it was because I lived there and it was convenient. With my canary ruled pad and Bic pen, wearing my one and only Brooks Brothers suit designed to impress, I went looking for anyone who would talk to a stranger. The range included a stripper on Bourbon Street to a physician at Ochsner Clinic.

Here is a summary of their answers to a very simple question: "How well do you think your bank's systems work for YOU?"

More than half (52 percent) were very pleased with their individual bank's systems.

It would be a disservice to try to categorize the other 48 percent so I'll list them, just as I heard them.

• Annoyed by the frequency of "down time," and that's their term. People didn't say, "It ain't woikin."

• My bank is the ATM, and it's OK for my needs.

• "Comme ci comme ca, baby. Now watchew havin' for lunch?"

• Can't interpret the information on bank statements.

• Chef Paul Prudhomme is one sweet kinda guy. I entered his restaurant through the front door and they sent me to the alley where his workshop was. I interrupted a most important culinary project, but he just smiled and listened to my question. Chef had a jar of pickles and was adding imitation sweetener to it a little at a time. After each addition, he would taste a pickle and continue the process. He was in no hurry to finish. His answer was, "I have nothin' but problems, but I cause them all myself so now I let my staff do the banking."

• Long teller lines are a pain.

• Availability of funds is restricted unreasonably.

• A dock worker: "I know watchew paid for dat Jag so get it atta da way or a truck will do it for ya."

• Five inmates at the department of corrections: They wouldn't talk to me.

• Honnie the Bourbon Street Stripper: I soon began to feel a romantic relationship with Honnie, but it wasn't because of her biological attributes. It was her mind that impressed me. She began with this, "People errors are a lot worse than computer errors." When she finished her lengthy dissertation I put on my most sincere married-man face and asked, "How is it you know so much about bank systems?" She said she was a former IBM employee.

• Anne Rice, the author: I never got past the iron gate in the Garden District. The maid answered my ring on the outside speaker and said, "Come back layta. She don't wake up until noon."

• "Dey expect me ta pay my loan even dough I'm atta woik, cher."

• They charge me fees while they use my money to make money for the bank.

• Inflexible funds transfers require more work on my part.

• We receive other peoples' notices.

I don't know what people in Peoria would say, but that's what banking is all about. It's like what Tip O'Neill said: "All politics is local." I believe banking has to be local also because that's where the customers are.

Blogger's statement: Please know that this bulletin appeared originally in November 1993 under my private label called, Rational Enformer. The bulletin was my idea of being a bit cheeky and using a brand name a little like the National Enquirer, The trouble is, nobody got the connection. When they commented on my content they even "corrected" the spelling to Informer. I was able to write this blog, not from memory, but from plagiarizing my own work, pulled from a 26-year archived database of never-disappearing works. The facts, people and opinions in this blog are real. Even Honnie was real. I quizzed her about her name. "Is it Horney or is it Honey," I asked. She said, "I didn't leave IBM because I couldn't get things right. I left because I wanted to make some real money. It's H-O-N-N-I-E." "OK, Ma'am, I got it." And one final point. I know that in some cases my "clients" didn't stick to the question, but answered based on what was bugging them at the time. That's New Orleans, baby.

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